2012: The Year Social Becomes Quieter?

January 2, 2012

Welcome to 2012, Fast Horse friends. For our first post of the year, I wanted to write about a possible trend that I got to thinking about over the weekend after reading an opinion piece titled “The Joy of Quiet” in The New York Times. That trend? Users of social media realizing that less just might be more.

Yep, quiet time is nice, and it’s been getting a little too noisy lately. Amid all the apps and buttons that invite us to share more about our lives more frequently, I think many people will rethink their sharing habits this year and adopt a “less is more” motto: less mass updates, smaller friend groups and more filtering out of unwanted user content.

I understand this prediction may fly in the face of lots of marketing-related New Year’s resolutions about increasing social media activity to gain more followers, but I think Pico Iyer, the writer of the op-ed, might be on the something. Consider the following quote:

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.

Do you agree? I know I felt this way a little bit last year after signing up for yet another social network, Google+, which caused me to stress about the inactivity taking place on my Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Foursquare accounts for no real good reason.

Feeling this way again over the weekend after looking at my Facebook news feed — a little disturbed by the new Timeline feature and a little annoyed by the amount of noise being broadcast by all the “friends” I’ve accumulated since college – I unfriended a bunch of over-sharers, and did the same to clean up my Twitter stream.

Think that’s strange? Blogger Chris Brogan appeared to be thinking about this topic as well recently when he unfollowed 131,000 people, which is pretty interesting. Think about it: What if you started from scratch? Given everything you’ve learned about social media over the last several years, would your approach to following users be the same if you relaunched all your accounts today? Would you think more about the quality of content as opposed to the quantity of followers?

It seems that newer social networks have sensed people’s desire for a quieter social media experience. While I don’t really use the site (yet), Google+ was on to the trend of more segmented sharing when it launched its Google+ Circles. And newcomer Path, the site that states “you should always be in control of your information and experience” has set a limit on the number of people you can interact with — now at 150 users, up from the original maximum of 50. I think we’ll see more options like these pop up and be embraced in 2012.

And, yes, this is all from a personal sharing standpoint. But from a marketing point of view, I also envision brands adopting a “less is more” approach as marketing teams think about measurement and how to engage fans on more of an intimate level. And if this approach isn’t adopted by the masses this year? Who knows, could 2013 end up being the year of the “black-hole resort” (explained by Iyer below)?

The future of travel, I’m reliably told, lies in “black-hole resorts,” which charge high prices precisely because you can’t get online in their rooms.

Photo credit: Oli Dunkley on Flickr.